Aug 4, 2022 - News

Children's National is interrupting violence one child at a time

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

For the first time ever, Children’s National Hospital has a violence intervention program aimed at youth victims.

Why it matters: Just last year, 12 children ages 17 and younger were victims of homicide in D.C., up from 11 in 2020.

State of play: While hospital-managed intervention programs aren’t unique in D.C., ones that focus on children are rare and Jawanna Hardy is the hospital’s first pediatric violence intervention specialist.

Since she started, Hardy says the work has been “nonstop.”

Details: Hardy meets with children ages 8 to 18 while they are recuperating in the hospital from stabbings, shootings, or other physical assaults.

  • She connects them with resources, such as a community violence interrupter, mental health provider, or temporary housing to leave a bad situation.

Yes, but: Some children may leave the hospital before connecting with someone or may not be routed to Children’s National after an assault, Katie Donnelly, the program’s medical director, tells Axios.

Zoom out: Other pediatric violence interruption programs include the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has operated its program for nearly ten years. That program focuses on case management for families and trauma-focused therapy.

  • Program co-director Laura Vega tells Axios that part of the program is building a safety network for families, such as relocation, to avoid future violence.
  • 75% of clients who come into the program participate in its services through completion of the program, she adds. And 82% of needs, including housing and mental health, are met for clients.

One of the biggest takeaways, Vega says, is “how strong and resilient children and families are when provided with the resources and access and support.”

Between the lines: Growing up, Hardy and her mother visited members of their Capitol Heights church community to offer meals and support during times of need.

  • She now runs an organization called Guns Down Friday and she often goes to the funerals of victims of gun violence to offer intervention strategies.

What they’re saying: A big part of Hardy’s role is building trust.

  • “We are not the police. We just want to see you well. We want to make sure you stay alive,” Hardy tells families. She encourages patients to avoid retaliation and to find a mentor in their lives.

What’s next: Children’s National hopes to get more funding to expand its program and hire additional violence intervention specialists. The program is funded through a grant from D.C.’s Office of Victims Services and Justice Grants and employs just Hardy, Donnolly, and social worker Yvonne Doerre.

  • Hardy says she wants families to come to her in times of need. “I want people to be able to trust Children’s."

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